By Tracy Henderson, LMHCA
How do you feel about emotions? When you experience love do you accept it or reject it? When you witness anger do you judge it? If you are sad do you mask it?
I’ve had many conversations with men who will share, “I feel embarrassed when I get angry” or “I’m scared to be sad in front of my friends.” When we discuss these statements further and begin to unpack where the feeling of “embarrassed” or “scared” came from, I routinely find that a common question follows. “Why do I feel this way about being angry or sad?” When we explore further we start to uncover what shaped their feelings about the emotions they are experiencing. One more question usually comes up as well. “Is there a difference between feelings and emotions?”
Many clients commonly interchange the words emotions and feelings as if they were the same. After learning there are differences between emotions and feelings it can be enlightening to understand the benefits of how you can influence the two and how that insight can be empowering.
Our emotions are instinctive and a part of each of us. Basic emotions such as love, anger, sadness and fear to name a few have been found to be universal. Responses from emotions in the body alter your physical state. Emotions are physical, they can be measured by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions, and body language.
Feelings on the other hand, are our individual associations and personal reactions to emotions. Feelings are commonly developed through a variety of experiences which were shaped and influenced by our past experiences, by caregivers, and by the general attitude in our environment. Individual temperament has also been found to influence our feelings about emotions.
Over time, our feelings about emotions can become coded within each of us and drive both healthy and negative perceptions, labels, and stereotypes. Those individual points of view about emotions carry over into our personal lives and relationships. Our feelings about emotions do influence how we interact with friends, partners, or peers.
Through growing a personal awareness around how and why you feel about your own emotions you can begin to influence how you respond to, as well as, interact with others. For example, by understanding why you feel “embarrassed” about anger you can become empowered to remove that label and provide yourself with a non-judgmental point of view and understanding with that emotion.